This second installment of Denver Does Denver took place on Saturday night at the Meadowlark, both upstairs and downstairs, as well in the Flobots Community Space. The bulk of the acts I caught played in downstairs at the Meadowlark, beginning with A Setting Science. Mark Shusterman is better known for his stint in Widowers, but apparently he and a drummer friend scored a short, black and white film about a circus in Denver in the early '30s rather than cover a specific band.
The dark, often somber music was jazzy in its rhythms but decidedly not so in its choice of which chords it employed to create a sense of foreboding to match the tenor of the film -- which was projected against the back wall. Like a Danny Elfman piece had Elfman lived in the silent movie era.
In the most clearly blink and you missed it moment, Chaperone covered local hardcore speedsters Crawl in a one-minute performance that sounded like the performer had listened to Birthdeath Experience-era Whitehouse or a lot of Suicide while preparing for this show. It was harshly disturbing and brutal, and apparently not all of the sounds were firing, so you can only imagine the sheer sonic devastation that would have been wreaked had this not been the case.
With the impending departure of Ian Douglas Moore overseas, this was one of the last shows for Oblio's Arrow with the full band. But in that spirit, the guys did a fairly faithful cover of a handful of songs by their friends Los Dos and the New American Ramblers. The earnest, but never perverse, countrified interpretation of the Los Dos songs brought out how that band wrote music that lent itself well to different arrangements. Bryce McPherson, Steven Lawson and Will Duncan all took up duties on lead vocals.
Anyone who saw Hunter Dragon's set had to wonder what he could possibly be doing with his voice clearly channeled through a vocoder while laying down some heavy duty hip-hop beats. Apparently he was covering Dominic and Arthur Play the Hits and Friends. One of the mystery songs was a 50 Cent track, and for the vocals, Hunter pitched his voice so high, he sounded like a psychotic, psychedelic chipmunk on crank having some fun.
Appropriately enough, Jason Cain followed Hunter Dragon with a set of Hunter Dragon songs. But before playing, Cain, as he is often known to do, went into a performance art/comedy piece. This time, he played a legitimately convincing John Denver song. The actual set consisted of some of Hunter's best material reinterpreted for relatively straight forward guitar work. Especially effective was Cain's cover of "Ghost of John.
One of the least recognizable covers of the night had to be Aenka (featuring our own Jon Solomon) doing a relatively abstract interpretation of Laura Goldhamer's work. It sounded like Dave Kurtz had sampled someone singing and slowed it down to barely recognizable as human language. Unless, of course, you're Hal 9000 and on the verge of having your last few memory cards removed. One might even describe this set with images evolving over the course of an evening as science fiction free jazz.
Night of Joy (featuring Bree Davies, another member of the Backbeat family) was up next and turned in slightly doomy versions of Lust-Cats of the Gutters songs as though someone in the band had, in addition to the original songs, listened mostly to St. Vitus and Sleep. But the doom didn't slow down the music, and the band ran through "Cemetary" and "Revenge Bikini Body" before telling us that little did we know, but Mark Bolan was from Denver, at which point, Night of Joy performed "Cadillac" by T. Rex. Closing out with a cover of "Nothing Cool Ever Happens on Dates" and the original, "John Candy," Night of Joy paid loving, if somewhat irreverent, tribute to what they called "...our sister band."
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Adam Baumeister (aka Littles Paia) set up in the corner and did live remixes of songs by various artists, including cuts by Pictureplane, Warlock Pinchers, Married in Berdichev and Pee Pee. His performance was probably not as obvious or as overt as others, but listening to his live re-imagining his friends' music made it seem normal, like you'd hear these songs in a club.
Arguably the highlight of the evening was Hideous Men covering both Night of Joy and Milton Melvin Croissant III. In addition to being recognizable, Ryan McRyhew and Kristi Schaefer had found a way to make similar chord progressions and drums to the originals. Schaefer manipulated her voice with an electronic device that at times was so heavily vocoded that made it difficult to tell if we were hearing a male or female voice.
Running through Night of Joy's "Concrete Jungle" and MMIII's "Blizzaga" and "Books on Tape," the pair acted like they knew they had messed up both songs, when in fact, they did not. Instead, Hideous Men unwittingly pointed to a way to do something like a cover with a complete disregard for conventions that don't work.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: Being part of the context in which all of this stuff takes place. Random Detail: There was some kind of "green initiative" even taking place within several blocks of The Meadowlark. By the Way: Once again, Lance Stack should be posting all this stuff on his website soon enough.